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Publication > Issue > Articles

Encouraging – but with caveats

Summary

We assess fertilizer industry sentiment in the light of the latest estimates for planting prospects in the year ahead.

Abstract

This is the time of the year that North American farmers assess their planting intentions for the year ahead. What they decide has a direct impact on fertilizer consumption. Various factors get thrown into the pot as farmers consider how much they should grow next year: yields, recent weather conditions and prevailing market prices are some of the key variables. Initial pointers are encouraging, albeit with a few caveats – especially regarding weather and the need for soils to recover after a recent drought. Agriculture and fertilizer industry analysts place much weight on the WASDE (World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates) report published by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) during August. This year, the WASDE report confirmed expectations that the 2012 US corn crop will fall well below what the large planted acreage had promised during the spring application season. The average corn yield estimated for 2012 has been cut to 124.4 bushels/acre – the lowest yields since 1995/96. In 2011, corn yields averaged 146 bushels/acre. The total corn crop is forecast at 273.8 million tonnes, 40 million tonnes less than in 2011. The shortfall in the expected harvest has led to some rationing of demand, with less corn expected to be used for animal feed and the production of ethanol. US corn stocks are expected to fall to 16.5 million tonnes, likewise the lowest since 1995/96. Keywords: WASDE, USDA, US Department of Agriculture, Forecasts, Crops, Yields, Closing stocks, Drought, Wheat, Corn, Soya, Soybeans, Bushel, Monsoon, United States, Brazil, Argentina, India, China, Russia

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Still a solid performance

Summary

In common with other commodities, fertilizers are a cyclical business, subject to the relative balance of supply and demand, and companies' profits ebb and flow accordingly. What is the current sate of affairs for industry profitability, and what factors are likely to influence the medium-term outlook? These issues have been addressed by Oliver Hatfield of Integer Research.

Abstract

D emand has been the main force driving fertilizer markets during the past five years. Crop prices have seen a major step upwards, with three notable spikes since 2007. The credit crunch of 2008/09 brought a brief respite, but the upward trend soon resumed. Drought conditions in the United States and Central Europe and forecasts of sharply lower grain yields have given a fresh impetus to the prices of leading crops. Higher crop prices are a positive factor for the fertilizer industry, as farmers are encouraged to increase production by raising planted acreages or through higher yields. While there has been a significant uplift in fertilizer prices during the past five years, inflation has not damaged overall demand growth. Keywords: Profitability, Prices, Production costs, Supply/demand balance, Natural gas, Feedstock, Energy costs, Agri-commodities, Greenfield projects

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Knowledge in every farmer's smart-phone

Summary

Abstract

Yara International has launched a new range of smart-phone applications, CheckIT and ImageIT, which connects farmers to the knowledge that Yara has accumulated over a century of serving agricultural markets. This knowledge is based on many years of scientific research, but has hitherto been reserved for only large high-tech farms and researchers. Now, every farmer with access to CheckIT and ImageIT can enjoy immediate access to information that will enable them to improve crop yield and quality. Keywords: Mobile phone, App, Food security, Telecoms, Yara, Downloads, Database, Advice, Agronomy, R&D, Smart phone, Technology

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Upgrades tackle the congestion

Summary

We review the capacities, facilities and ongoing programmes to upgrade the major ports in Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela and other Latin American ports.

Abstract

The countries of Latin America are enjoying unprecedented rates of economic growth, with Brazil in the forefront. However, poor local infrastructures and high logistical costs threaten to undermine this growth. The problems of inadequately developed infrastructures have become most acute in Brazil. Brazil’s transport infrastructure has been characterised by strong regional differences, as well as the country’s diverse topography – defined by expanses of rainforests in the Amazon lowlands in the north, plateaux and mountains in the south and in the Andes in the west. The railway network is underdeveloped, comprising just 29,000 km primarily in the states of Săo Paulo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Rio Grande do Sul. Brazil is therefore reliant primarily on road transport: around 60% of total transport volumes move by road. Keywords: Port, Logistics, Harbour, Conveyors, Jetty, Panamax, Dry bulk shipping, Storage, Latin America, Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico, Argentina, Chile

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Pushing your urea plant to the max

Summary

The leading Advanced Process Control systems supplier, IPCOS, and the urea process licensing company, Stamicarbon, have teamed up to offer urea producers an innovative operating system, as described here.

Abstract

In February 2010, IPCOS and Stamicarbon announced the signing of a co-operation agreement that provides urea producers with IPCOS’ high-end Advanced Process Control (APC) and Optimisation systems. The co-operation agreement has facilitated the combination of Stamicarbon’s leading process knowledge and IPCOS’ innovative APC solutions. By bringing together the experience of Stamicarbon, market leader in urea process licensing, and the experience of IPCOS, market leader in APC systems for fertilizer producers, a next-generation Urea Optimisation system is now available to the market – the Sirius@Max©. Sirius@Max© optimises the operation of the urea plant every minute, hour and day, providing urea producers with enhanced reliability of operation by ensuring continuous and consistent best-practice operation. The variability in key process parameters is significantly reduced (typically by a factor of 2 to 5), and production rates and energy efficiency are increased from conventional, operator-driven operations. Keywords: Urea, Process control, APC, Ammonium carbamate, Ammonia, Synthesis, Optimisation, Energy saving, Synthesis, Stripper, IPCOS, Stamicarbon

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Solving the bottleneck mystery

Summary

Having some trouble at the plant? You are trying to fulfil an order but are being thwarted by delays and bottlenecks? Ken Piper, Director of Sales – Americas of Rexnord Industrial Chain & Conveyor, offers some possible solutions to the problem.

Abstract

Finding the cause of a material handling bottleneck in a large fertilizer plant environment can be akin to solving one of those old black-and-white murder mysteries… Usually, the first step in cracking the case is to gather as much evidence as possible at the scene. After that, interviews must be conducted with everyone involved. Finally, an experienced “bottleneck detective” in the form of an applications engineer may be called in to evaluate the findings and point to the culprit. Solving bottleneck “mysteries” is crucial to maintaining high production levels within a plant. Just one back-up can affect the performance of an entire facility. Because all material handling within a plant is interrelated, sometimes solving one problem can lead to another. So it is important to take a systems-wide approach. Keywords: Bottleneck, Conveyors, Bucket elevators, Raw materials, Materials, Design capacity

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Equipping your new terminal

Summary

What you need to be up and running, and a profile of the leading solutions providers.

Abstract

The Riga Fertilizer Terminal (RFT) in Latvia promises to be one of the most advanced and safest fertilizer handling and storage terminals in Europe when it opens for business in 2014. RFT was founded in November 2009 as a joint venture of the Uralchem subsidiary, Uralchem Freight Limited, and RTO (Rigas Tirdzniecibas Osta), Latvia’s leading investor, developer and operator of port terminal and transit services. The planned handling capacity of the RFT terminal is 2 million t/a, while the capital cost of the terminal has been estimated at EUR 45 million. Much of this investment will be in advanced fertilizer handling and storage technologies which are environmentally safe and conform to international standards. Cargo handling and processing will be undertaken in completely closed conditions, ensuring maximum compliance with environmental regulations. The terminal will enable Uralchem to export ammonium nitrate and other fertilizer products to customers throughout the world. These customers will not only expect timely delivery but also that their consignments will have suffered no form of product degradation or damage during delivery from the point of production. KEYWORDS: Terminal, Warehouse, Storage, Handling, Dry bulk, Shiploader, Ship unloader, Continuous unloader, Elevators, Conveyors, Reclaimers, Transhipment, Bulk blending, Bagging, Bulk toter, Dust control, Panamax, Siwertell, Cargotec, Vigan, ThyssenKrupp Fördertechnik, B&W Materials Handling Aumund, FLSmidth, AMECO

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A topical scrutiny

Summary

It was standing room only during the sessions of the 36th Annual Clearwater Convention, organised by the Central Florida Section of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). The annual assessment of topical issues on sulphuric acid and phosphoric acid technology has spotlighted more facets in the collective understanding of these topics and prompted further discussion and debate.

Abstract

It is almost a matter of routine to report well-attended Clearwater meetings and enthusiastic audiences, and the 36th Annual Clearwater Convention of the Central Florida Section of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) on 8-9 June matched the established standards that participants have come to expect. The meeting attracted over 400 registered delegates, making Central Florida one of the most active AIChE sections. As customary, the 2012 AIChE Clearwater Convention comprised two half-day sessions, commencing on the Friday afternoon of 8 June with the Sulphuric Acid Workshop, which is now well established as a curtain-raiser to the main event. Again under the exemplary chairmanship of Rick Davies and Jim Dougherty, the 15th Annual Sulphuric Acid Workshop focused on Sulphuric Acid Coolers. The topic centred on anodically-protected shell and tube heat exchangers: these have dominated the sulphuric acid industry for over two decades, replacing cast iron coils, which were prone to acid leaks. These coolers have gained an excellent reputation for reliability and have become established as the industry norm. However, they require full maintenance and proper operation to ensure continued reliability. Key words: Acid, Sulphuric acid, Phosphoric acid, Coolers, Wastewater, Phosphogypsum, Pond water, Recycling, Cooling towers, Fluosilicic acid, Uranium, Chemical engineer, Gypsum stack, Award, Central Florida

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Much more than a pinch of salt

Summary

We profile the expansion plans of Compass Minerals Inc., the leading North American producer of potassium sulphate.

Abstract

Compass Minerals is a leading producer of minerals, including potash, salt and magnesium chloride. Based in Overland Park, Kansas City, the company is most widely known for supplying bulk treated and untreated highway salt for de-icing highways to customers in North America and northern Europe. Compass Minerals is the Number One market leader is several market sectors: l Salt production in North America and the United Kingdom l Production of de-icing minerals in North America and the UK l Production of speciality potassium sulphate fertilizers in the Western Hemisphere l Production of magnesium chloride de-icing and de-dusting products in North America. Keywords: Compass Minerals, Potash, Potassium sulphate, Salt, Brines, Magnesium chloride, Great Salt Lake, Ogden, Utah, Speciality fertilizers, Solar evaporation

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Global TraPs offers a new approach

Summary

March 2012 saw the fourth Global TraPs Workshop meeting in El-Jadida, Morocco. For those not familiar with the TraPs project, we asked one of its industry participants, Michael Mew, of FERTECON Research Ltd., to explain its structure, aims and importance. We believe there remains within the fertilizer industry the need for a better awareness as to what this project could potentially mean for companies as it enters its most important phase.

Abstract

What is Global TraPs? TraPs is a shorthand way of saying Trans-disciplinary Processes for Sustainable Phosphorus Management. Probably like you, the first time I was told that, it got me no nearer to knowing what it was about. Trans-disciplinarity (or TD for short) is a relatively new way of doing science. Scientific method was at its outset performed by individuals with training in a number of disciplines. As scientific knowledge proliferated, scientists became increasingly focused into specific disciplines. For some time now, we have had inter-disciplinarity, where experts from several fields got together to formulate the best knowledge on a particular cross-cutting subject (for example, when building a new reservoir, which might draw together archaeologists, hydrologists, ecologists, geologists, engineers, etc.). Keywords: Global TraPs, Transdisciplinary, Knowledge, Project, Nodes, Study team, Multidisciplinary, Phosphorus, Phosphates, Phosphate rock, Recycling, Resources, Debate, Workshop, Research, Peak Phosphorus, Sustainability, Corporate responsibility, Phosphate recovery, Energy conservation

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Uralkali – staying ahead of the pack

Summary

One of the world's market leaders in potash following its merger with Silvinit, Uralkali has ambitious plans to increase its potash output over the coming years to meet anticipated world demand and maintain its market position. Fertilizer International visited the company's mine complex near Perm to see progress.

Abstract

Uralkali, headquartered in Moscow, is now one of the world’s largest potash producers with a market share of about 20% in terms of production. It produced 10.8 million tonnes (in terms of KCl) in 2011, although the company’s estimate for 2012 is that this will drop to about 10.0 million t/a, as demand has been slightly lower in the early part of this year. Net revenues in 2011 were $3.59 billion, and net profits $1.53 billion. The company employs about 12,500 people in the production division and 19,000 in the group as a whole. Following the July 2011 merger with neighbouring potash producer Silvinit, Uralkali’s assets consist of five operating mines and seven ore treatment mills situated around the towns of Berezniki and Solikamsk in Russia’s Perm Territory of western Siberia (see Figure 1). The northern block, acquired via the Silvinit merger, consists of three mines and processing plants at Solikamsk and the reserves of the Solikamski 4 or Polovodovsky potash block, while the southern assets include two operational and two closed mines at Berezniki, three processing plants (one each at Berezniki mines 2, 3 and 4 – the plant at Berezeniki 1 is being demolished) and the new Ust-Yayvinksy block, where drilling for a new mine is now under way. Total potash assets in the region include Joint Ore Reserves Committee (JORC) estimated resources of 8.6 billion tonnes KCl, including 4.4 billion tonnes in the as-yet unexploited Ust-Yayvinsky and Polovodovsky blocks. Keywords: Potash, Potassium, Mine, Mining, Projects, Expansion, Siberia, Russia, Belarus

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Li demand growth boosts projects

Summary

The boom in the demand for lithium (as used in batteries and electric vehicles) has led to several projects being mooted that will also produce potash as a co-product. We assess the market for lithium, which will also benefit the market for phosphate technology, as well as outlining the latest status of the lithium-potash projects.

Abstract

Lithium (Li) is the third element in the periodic table, with half the density of water, and is a soft metal with a low melting point, high electro-positivity and a high charge- and power-to-weight ratio. Lithium has several industrial applications, including heat-resistant glass and ceramics, high strength-to-weight alloys used in aircraft, lithium batteries and lithium-ion batteries. These uses account for more than half of world lithium production. Since the introduction of lithium-ion batteries in the 1990s, these have become the dominant use of lithium. Lithium-ion batteries have a 90% share of the battery market, and demand has been growing at about 8%/year. Batteries in turn represent 30% of total lithium demand – a total which is forecast to increase to 50% by 2020. Keywords: Lithium, Potash, Potassium, Potassium chloride, Lithium chloride, Lithium carbonate, Lithium-ion batteries, Brines, Solar evaporation, Junior mining companies, Projects Inferred resources, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia

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